People come to music for many reasons and even sometimes for direction. I came to it early in life, or rather it came to me; from my mother’s terribly off pitched and prayerful voice, to being in a community of singers.
Music came to me as an adult from many angles as well, almost more than I can give tribute to, and yet each one of them resonates in my heart and voice when I sing.
My foundations in music, were in my childhood, as a singer, every one of us who lived in this conscious community was a singer for that matter. No one said, “ I can’t sing”.
Later, when I left the Ashram, I became seasoned for the first time in my life, at the age of 16 to the radio and voices of pop culture…the likes of Michael Jackson and Johnny Cash were a strange resonance to my new “western” ears. But it was the voices of the women, of Mary Black and Wynonna Judd, and later to the haunting whispers of Eva Cassidy and Sinead O’Conner that developed my voice and ears into more refined vocal and heart space.
After listening to the radio for many years, there was a big space of time, where I decided to study classical music in India, after my mother passed away. She had asked me to sing, she wished to see me sing…she loved hearing my voice open up when we were in private. That was how I expressed myself most of the time, and we would sit for long times together just with my singing…it was a sort of communication we would have together, especially in the last days of her life…while she was isolated to her room and bed.
So, I traveled alone to India, and wandered, listening for what might sound like me, or what might resonate with my abilities and heart and soul space.
I traveled around India from North to South for two years, and finally returned to the village of Brindaban where I had met and heard a most wonderful Swami’s voice.
I visited the house of one of my most favorite masters Swami Fateh Krsna almost daily for years, listening and listening and only listening. Even when he would ask me to sing, I would stay silent, for I had found something that I was digesting and receiving so much love and depth from. I traveled with him for many years listening to his dance and ras lila troup, all over India, I did not ask what raga they were singing in, but I just followed when he would ask the audiences of 20,000 to sing along with him, the simple chants of kirtan…and listen in awe, at his home on the courtyard floor, or in their festive times of festivities, he and his village friends, and locals brijbasis, would sing night long, all the folk songs of braj. Those sounds were intoxicating to me, and I knew I had found my music. But entry into it was not easy, he did not speak english and I did not speak hindi. He did not teach, he only sang and so I had to rely on my ears to teach me, but the entry into it was still confusing. I could not find a direction, a teacher. Swami gave all he had, but he did not have time from his busy traveling schedule and family affairs, to teach nor did he speak English, to be able to help me find my way.
So, in brindaban, with grace and only grace, I stepped into the temple of Radha Raman one on very cold winter evening, and found a devotional music being sung in the temple that captivated another side of me.
It was a group of musicians sitting at that back of the temple, Tarun Krishna Das leading, and I simply returned almost every night I was in the town of brindaban to hear these new sounds of devotional music. It was not kirtan, it was not folk…this was something else and while they sang, they faced the murti of their beloved and with all the villagers congregating to worship, they would all sing together or listen, thus creating a vibrancy and atmosphere of rich and warm devotion.
After months of sitting there, I was finally asked who my teacher was, and when I replied that I had none, I was invited to attend the class of the singer.
It was magical for me, because I had not known what style of music to study, how to find a teacher, how to ask the locals for recommendations…I found that ‘trying out teachers’ to be offensive and I wanted it to happen organically. I had patience in finding the right thing, and I did not try to find music through trying to understand its whys and hows…it just had to be able to speak to my ears and heart.
I was so blessed to be walking into a very elite group of musicians studying the ancient, the most ancient form of classical Indian music known as Dhrupad.
With only males in most classes, and only one other western woman studying, I felt lost and found at the same time.
I still did not speak fluent Hindi, and the grand master teacher known affectionately all through the lands of brindaban as Pandit Vidur Mallick, was to become my personal center of warmth and director of my ear and voice.
With only the simplicity of following his voice, I had no idea what we were doing, what raga, what what…but it did not matter, he would sing elaborate scales and Ragas and extended breaths full of expressions, and I was asked to follow. It was challenging and embarrassing to say the least, but at last, I was determined to fall and find the first note and the first mistake in front of a room of Indian males.
After many years, the music captured me so deeply, that I finally found I had entered my own space of sound. I had found true mystical sounds, vibrations, and meditations. A music sung only in the language of Sanskrit, or brijabasi, they sang of love and spring and longing, and I was captured by the devotion and musical preciseness.
And so, between the home of Swami Fateh Krsna and the temple of Radha Raman, and the home of my dear beloved Guru ji, I found a combination of sound that relinquished fear and asked me to open up…without hesitation.
I could give you all the aspects of Dhrupad as a music, but that can be found these days easily on google or wikipedia. But to go and find the music without knowing its name and why’s, was my magical journey into my dedication to the sound vibrations of India and the mystical saints of Dhrupad. I am forever a disciple, a student, and grateful for this journey in this lifetime. I share whenever I can, what I have learned, but most often you will not find me able to explain the theory and why’s of it…just the way it has become party of my path and light and vision. I like to feel music, not understand it so much. Such is the personal journey I have been developed by music from. It has given me much depth and meaning in life, what to speak of the great souls I have met, and been so fortunate to be touched by!
Sivananda Yoga Ashram…Bahamas February, 2013